“And immediately, I just broke down,” she said. “I just lost my job because of the coronavirus. I already have a 10 month old daughter. I don’t know what I’m going to do, you know? “
“M” asked us not to use her full name because she is concerned about how her family would react when they ask for an abortion. She is 30 years old and has two children. She said she lost her job in the retail business a few weeks ago after the sudden disappearance of the business.
“M” said she was able to get an appointment for the next day at a clinic in Wichita, Kan. She doesn’t have a reliable car, so a friend drove her there – a 2.5 hour trip each way.
“There were so many people from so many different states, and I don’t think how many could get there,” she said.
Republican officials in several states are trying to ban abortion during the coronavirus crisis. They say the procedure should be suspended during the pandemic to help save medical supplies like surgical masks and gowns.
Federal courts have blocked such orders in Ohio and Alabama. Iowa officials have agreed to allow doctors to determine when an abortion is necessary. A federal court briefly blocked a Texas ban before the decision was overturned on appeal. A litigation is in progress.
Reproductive rights groups say hundreds of patients have been returned to Texas and Oklahoma.
Becca Walker, counselor at the Southwestern Women’s Surgery Center in Dallas, said many patients “panicked” when they learned their procedures were canceled. She said some patients are particularly afraid of being pregnant during a pandemic.
“Sometimes you just guide them by breathing on the phone because it’s a time of panic and crisis for them,” said Walker. “And then you just have to give them the reference, and the next reference is not good news.” “
Walker referred patients to clinics in New Mexico or Kansas, if they could make the trip.
Opponents of abortion rights argue that bans are necessary and appropriate during a pandemic.
“We set aside all kinds of what would otherwise be considered essential health care – I would say more essential health care than abortion, certainly – cancer screenings,” said Dr. Christina Francis, OB / GYN, Indiana and Chair of the Board of the American Association. Pro-Life obstetricians and gynecologists.
“Abortion is not an essential health system; it does not treat a pathological process, ”said Francis. “It is a social solution, and there are other solutions we can offer to women who are currently in very frightening and uncertain circumstances. “
Many doctors say that refusing an abortion can put patients at risk. The American Medical Association released a statement accusing elected officials of “exploiting this moment” and saying that the decision should be left to patients and doctors.
A doctor at the Dallas clinic told NPR that some patients who had been turned back there had threatened to harm themselves.
Dr. Bhavik Kumar, who provides abortion services at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Houston, said that in the midst of a pandemic, many abortion patients feel desperate enough to consider unsafe home remedies.
“The scary part is that many of my patients ask us what they can do on their own, how they can use things at home, different herbs or vitamins or objects to help them not get pregnant,” said Kumar. ” They are afraid. “
Court challenges are underway in several states where officials tried to ban abortion during the coronavirus pandemic. An Oklahoma ban hearing is scheduled for Friday afternoon in an Oklahoma City federal court, and the matter could be referred to the United States Supreme Court.